FRIDAY, Oct. 6, 2006 - Nancy Joline

Friday, October 6, 2006

Solving time: UNKNOWN (but too long)

THEME: none

I did the puzzle on the couch today, with ESPN recounting the Tigers' glorious (and perhaps only) posteason victory over the Yankees, so I was (happily) distracted. How distracted? I couldn't figure out how "safe" made any sense as an answer for 1A George Orwell, e.g., until, after what must have been several minutes, I realized that "safe" was the answer for 11A, not 1A (and made a perfectly good answer to 11A: Hotel room amenity). But the Tigers won and Zumaya struck out Jeter, Giambi, and K-Rod, in order, so puzzle shmuzzle.

19A: Coil (hank)

Something about this answer grosses me out, and I can't quite put my finger on it. I think "hank" sounds like something you do to the phlegm in your throat when you want it to come out. Maybe because it sounds like the first syllable of the "handkerchief" into which you might spit said phlegm. "Hank" is a great, versatile word, though, as well as a great baseball name (belonging to two of the greatest players of all time: Hall-of-Famers Aaron and Greenberg). "Hank" is one letter off from "hack" - another phlegm-related word that is also a great baseball name: Hack Wilson still holds the Major League record for RBI in a single season, with 191.

47A: Modern site of ancient Thebes (Luxor)

There are two ancient Thebeseseses, so this clue is tricky. I was familiar only with the Greek Thebes (where all the Oedipus stuff went down) but there's one in Egypt, too, also ancient, and mentioned by Homer (Greek!) in the Iliad. "Luxor" sounds like a super-villain, a hotel, or a brand of bath soap.

61A: Animals that are nearly invisible to infrared detectors (polar bears)

This clue is hot and conjures up an image from what I imagine would be a great horror movie about rampaging polar bears (like, uh, Jurassic Park, but with polar bears). Two intrepid explorers are trying to pick up signs of life on the pure white, icy horizon, while hunkered down in a make-shift bunker. We see what they are seeing through their infrared detector goggles: nothing. Joe Icepick breathes a small sigh of relief, puts down the infrareds, and turns to his companion, only to reveal: A GIANT POLAR BEAR STANDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM!Gore ensues.

5D: Univ. dept. (Eng.)

I plugged in a lot of potential answers (mentally) before I figured out the correct one. This is odd only because the answer is the only university department of which I actually happen to be a member.

9D: Crescent (meniscus)

Pardon me while I look this up, as the answer sounds like the Latin name for a body part of some kind, not a synonym for a dinner roll... OK, it is a Latin name for a body part of some kind. From

  • The two menisci of the knee are crescent-shaped wedges that fill the gap between the tibia and femur. The menisci provide joint stability by creating a cup for the femur to sit in. The outer edges are fairly thick while the inner surfaces are thin. If the menisci were missing, the curved femur would move on the flat tibia.

Coincidentally, I now believe that my nagging (though slowly improving) knee trouble is related to a problem with my medial meniscus. I wish I were kidding.

14D: They're small and may be golden (eaglets)

I thought I was so smart when, seeing that the word ended "-glets," I filled in spaces to make it "aiglets," which Totally works, as the definition of "aiglet" is as follows:

  • a metal tag or sheath at the end of a lace used for tying, as of a shoelace.

SMALL and GOLDEN (well, metal ... gold's a metal). So my whole NE corner (now called "Bangor") was a disaster for a while as I was sure "aiglets" was correct. This problem was simultaneous with the whole George Orwell snafu (see intro paragraph, above). Throw in the distraction of baseball highlights, and you can see why I didn't bother to continue timing myself.

45D: Holiday spot in el MediterrĂ¡neo (Menorca)

I was sure this was "Majorca" - I should stop being sure about things. Turns out Majorca (or Mallorca) and Menorca are neighboring islands off the eastern coast of Spain. Both are part of the Balearic Island chain, or Islas Balearas! Geography!

60D: Pained replies (ows)
63A: Scotland Yard discovery (clew)

I love the British, for the most part. I study and teach British literature. And yet, jingoistically, I find these quaint little spelling differences archaic and annoying. For a long time I, like any red-blooded American, had "clue" written in - resulting in only non-sensical possible results for 60D: "ees?" "mes?" Then finally, I got a clew, gov'nuh, and then I sent the culprit to gaol.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Howard B 1:44 PM  

'Meniscus' is kind of a cool word; I vaguely remembered it from my old high-school chem classes, where they used another definition:
(from Webster)"the curved upper surface of a column of liquid".

You know when you're trying to measure out water for ramen noodles* or something, and you can't quite see if the water line is quite on '1/2 cup' because it sort of arcs, clinging to the sides of the measuring cup? Yep, that's a meniscus too. It's more of a general-purpose term for that shape, in addition to the medical term.

That said, that clue still took me a little while to break.

And so through puzzles we find a use for somewhat useless information, and there is much rejoicing (yay.) ;).

* No, I don't actually bother measuring the water for ramen. It's an example.

Rex Parker 3:42 PM  

O I like this "meniscus" better than the one in my knee, as this one does not give me pain *and* it's a visible everyday phenomenon. Learneding! Thanks Howard B.

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